Shelbyville factory has added 700 jobs

ssloan@herald-leader.comFebruary 28, 2013 

A Shelbyville automotive supplier has increased its work force by more than 700 employees in recent months.

Martinrea Heavy Stamping now employs 950 workers across three shifts running five days a week, general manager Shawn Adelsberger said.

It's a major turnaround for a factory that was on the brink of closing during the depths of the recession that began in 2007.

The company has invested $23.6 million in equipment to help it produce large stamped and welded assemblies for the underbodies and framed bodies of Ford Escape SUVs manufactured in Louisville.

"It's great to be part of job growth and opportunities and to employ people in Shelby County and Kentucky and build the great products we do for our customers," Adelsberger said.

On Thursday, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave final approval to $10 million in tax incentives for the added jobs, which pay $25 hourly on average including benefits.

In general, when a company accepts a tax incentive, it can keep that amount of money, which it would otherwise pay in taxes, assuming it fulfills the terms of the deal.

At its peak in the early 2000s, the factory had employed about 1,000 people. Martinrea bought the plant in 2007, and employment dwindled as the economy worsened.

The work force got as low as 250 workers, Adelsberger said, and there was a time that closing the plant was considered.

"But, together, the union and the company found a way to move forward, and then we got sourced a large book of business for the new Escape," he said.

The popular Escape replaced the Explorer recently in one of Ford's two Louisville plants. Ford invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the plant as part of the overhaul.

The quick and dramatic growth at Martinrea brought on its own problems, though, in finding so many workers at once.

"We had no shortage of applicants," Adelsberger said. "I'd rather have the hiring and staffing problems I have today than the problems we had three years ago."

The turnaround will be a boon to the city, local officials said.

"We thought they would come back, but I never thought they would be back to the numbers they are now," said Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation.

"That's a tremendous economic impact for our community," Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said.

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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